THE INEQUALITIES between the Champions League rivals, at this stage of the season, are obvious, and here are some good reasons to believe in a Barca success
In Barcelona, it is a time for merrymaking, while at Stamford Bridge the atmosphere is getting worse week by week. Bookies in the U.K are already giving odds for Antonio Conte's possible replacement, and former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is the best placed in the forecasts. Ernesto Valverde, on the other hand, has been drawing praise, and his position is so strong that it allows him to rotate the likes Luis Suarez and Messi without anyone daring to question his decisions and this would have been a huge controversy at other times.
Valverde's Barcelona is more solid than ever in this aspect. The high pressure and the great individual moments of defensive bastions like Umtiti and Ter Stegen make the Blaugrana as safe as a team could be, and like few others in world football at this time. Chelsea's back line, until not long ago the great weapon of Conte's team, has collapsed in the last few matchdays. The west London side have conceded seven goals in the last two games and await with concern the definitive diagnosis on Andreas Christensen. He could miss the match due to injury but has been Chelsea's best defender.
To this day, the doubts surrounding Chelsea's attack multiply. Alvaro Morata still doesn't know if he will be able to play in the European duel. His back problems are keeping the supporters and Olivier Giroud in suspense, the Frenchman being his alternative. Only Eden Hazard will guarantee a good performance. For Barcelona, Messi and Suarez are enjoying a record season in terms of scoring efficiency.
The comparison between both squads right now is like night and day. For Barcelona, the players are united and don't doubt Valverde's decisions, which has helped to keep almost all of the squad singing from the same hymn sheet. He has also recovered players that Luis Enrique didn't use such as Vermaelen, Andre Gomes and Paco Alcacer. All have had more minutes than expected and confirm the depth of a united team. In London, Chelsea's footballers no longer believe in Conte's decisions, to the point of generating doubts in the players as to whether he is the right man for the job.
Trajectory in Europe
Barcelona qualified from the first phase as group winners, and without losing a single game. Chelsea finished the group stage in second and never clearly imposed themselves on their two main rivals for a place in the knockout stages. Atletico drew in London, as did Roma.
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